Robots have made everyone’s lives a whole lot easier, and because a machine can perform a repetitive task without tiring out, many industrial processes and other jobs that are tedious for humans have been offloaded to robots.
These robots need to be well-designed and made to match the job’s demands and have a very low failure rate.
The engineering that goes into these robots is fascinating to see for yourself, and the production methods that robot manufacturers use even more so.
This article will deal with how robots are made, what goes into a robot, and the rest of the process that allows robot makers to arrive at their end product.
Software is a pretty big part of any robot, to make them usable and programmable, so we’ll be looking at what’s running underneath the hood of most robots as well later in the article, so stick around till the end.
Robots are made by following a multi-step process that includes R&D, designing, prototyping, fabrication, testing, and assembly, followed by quality control and programming its brain.
Read on to find out what you need to make a robot and the different types of robots you can make.
Different Types of Robots
One of the biggest advantages of intelligent engineering is that it lets humans design almost anything that fits their use cases.
Robots come in all shapes and sizes and are designed to do a whole lot of things.
So to keep everything simple, there is a general classification of the different types of robots that we use.
Pre-programmed robots are mostly the ones that do repetitive or monotonous work and, as a result, have a pretty simple design compared to other kinds of robots.
You’ll mostly see them on factory floors and machine shops doing monotonous work like spot welding, assembling smaller parts, and more.
These robots increase the efficiency of the assembly line because they don’t tire and won’t complain about the work is tedious.
Some robots look like or almost resemble a human by standing upright on two feet with two arms, called humanoid robots.
They are built to do what humans can do, like talking, running, and walking.
Most of these robots are part of research projects and as learning tools for children, and the industrial adoption of these types of robots has been pretty slow.
But they have huge potential in customer-facing jobs like receptionists and customer service representatives.
These robots don’t need human assistance to accomplish their purpose and don’t require supervision.
The sensors, cameras, and other systems let them know where they are to actively carry out their job.
Based on the input from these sensors, their computer brain figures out how to carry out the task they have been assigned as efficiently as possible.
One of the most common examples of an autonomous robot will be your robot vacuum cleaner.
They can be scheduled to clean your house at set intervals and learn your home’s layout after they make a few cleaning runs.
As the name might suggest, teleoperated robots let you control them from a remote location over a wireless network connection.
As a result, they’re usually used in inaccessible areas for humans, even with safety gear.
They are used in places that require closer inspection, like a working furnace or in a high-pressure environment underwater.
These robots are built to perform well in tough conditions, so they are also used in bomb defusal and other military operations.
These robots help or augment the functions of a human being, like letting us lift heavier weights, helping soldiers carry more equipment, or returning motor functions to people who have lost them.
Human augmentation with robots can revolutionize the industrial sector by making people working there stronger and faster.
Some examples are the exoskeletons that the US Army is currently testing to augment soldiers’ capabilities.
How Do Robots Work?
Robots use arms or similar appendages and motorized movement methods like wheels or tracks to get their work done.
Some robots are fixed in position because they do not need to move when doing their tasks.
They can have multiple arms that can either be controlled autonomously according to a set pattern or by an operator remotely.
Robots are usually defined as machines with reprogrammable brain that moves an appendage or body.
They are distinct from computers because computers don’t control a body or an arm in any way.
What are the Main Components of a Robot
There are five essential components to any robot system that sets it apart from a regular machine.
- A movable frame or body.
- A motor
- Power supply
- A computer brain.
All of these come together to make any robot and resemble animals in design.
Some robots have joints in segmented arms that let them pivot and move around the workspace, while some have wheels to help them move.
These movements are powered by servo motors, solenoids, and the like.
Some use pneumatic systems for movement as well.
A few robots have both wheels and arms, and the most common example would be a bomb defusal robot.
The power source for these robots, especially those that often need to move around, is batteries.
For mostly stationary robots, they are plugged into the main supply.
Robots that have pneumatic systems also need a hydraulic pump to power them.
These motors and other actuating units are controlled by the robot’s brain, which is a computer that you can program.
You can use the computer to change how the robot behaves to changes in its environment and the speed at which it works.
The computer also lets you monitor every aspect of the robot, right down to the temperature of the motors.
With the help of the robot’s sensors, the computer helps it find its way around its working environment.
Preliminary Resources to Fabricate a Robot
To start making a robot, you’ll first need to acquire the materials you’re going to make the robot out of.
You can add to or change these materials depending on what you need your robot to do.
Steel is a pretty good material to make the robot’s frame out of, which includes all of the parts that bear the loads when the robot is working.
Hardened steel is also a good option if you want your robot to be a bit tougher than regular robots.
The flexible parts of the robot can be made out of rubber since metal is known to be prone to breaking if bent too many times.
You can also use soft plastic for this purpose, but plastic can’t absorb impacts as well as rubber can.
Rubber protects fragile components of the robot from shock and the external environment as well.
If your robot has surfaces that humans come in contact with, you can cover those parts with rubber to make those surfaces softer to the touch.
PCBs, computing hardware and other electronics
To build your robot’s brain, you’ll need to have a processor that runs the software, which enables the robot to think and execute its tasks.
You can achieve this by designing a PCB with the requisite processor, memory, and cooling components.
The PCB will combine all of the individual electronic and computing elements into a single module that the robot can use as its brain.
These are all the basic stuff you’ll need to make a robot on your own, but you can use more exotic materials like titanium to change how your robot works.
Designing a Robot
Designing a robot involves a three-step process that’s iterated or repeated multiple times to achieve the perfect or close to perfect outcome that we want.
Remember that there are many ways you could design your own robot, and this is just one of the ways you can structure your design process.
Step 1: Define the problem
Here, we identify the issue we are trying to solve with the robot we want to design.
We also fix the objectives we aim to achieve with the bot.
Step 2: Research
This is the time to check out research papers and other literature to identify what can be done and what cannot.
You should explore all ideas by brainstorming with team members, and one plan that everyone agrees on objectively, based on the research they’ve done, should be charted out here.
Step 3: Prototyping
To know if the ideas you’ve come up with work, you’ll need to make a prototype that has your ideas materialized.
Test if it works as intended, and learn from the mistakes made here.
You should iterate on your prototype multiple times, adding the fixes for the issues you have found every time you come out with a new prototype.
After finalizing the best prototype, you need to fabricate it in real-world conditions with materials and plans as close to the final product as possible.
In the fabrication phase, you’ll have to identify the materials you’re going to use in the final version of the robot, the potential limitations of your production model design, and the cost to make it.
Factories or other manufacturing facilities must be identified and production planned out in a phased manner.
Once you have your first “mass-produced” model out of the line, test it methodically on almost every aspect you can think of.
If your robot is being released commercially, the bugs and other issues need to be ironed out completely for people to invest in your product.
Assembling the Final Product
After making changes from the pre-production robot, revise the design and make it ready to be presented as the final product.
Identify the possible problem areas and flag those bugs if they can be fixed later and are lower in priority.
Put together your final product, and you’re done making your first robot!
After making the release version of your robot, the most important thing to do making release version is to run it through a strict gauntlet of quality control tests.
The tests are standardized, so test the robot according to what it is intended to be used for, and if issues start to show up, get to fixing it.
Quality control shouldn’t stop at the first few units either; if you’re thinking of mass-producing the robot, you’ll need to keep stringent quality control standards to make the best robot possible.
Software – Instructing a Robot
We’ve talked about the robot’s brain but never thought about how the robot thinks.
The software is the part that tells the robot how it should think or behave when it runs into the myriad of variables in its working environment.
You can easily program commercially available robots like the Roomba with your phone, but behind every command, you give with your phone, many things happen to let the Roomba do what you ask it to.
You instruct a robot on what to do with programs written in a language like C/C++ or Python.
You can code the robot to do any task you want, considering you can code well, and even if you don’t, there are resources online that let you do exactly that.
You can get code that fits your robot’s software to let it do what you want.
But taking this route limits you because you can only do what someone else has already done.
Specific and custom tasks that only apply to you should be developed from scratch, so learning programming is pretty much a prerequisite if you want to make custom tasks for your robot.
Like a computer, a robot runs the software you write on a Robot Operating System, which are libraries and tools that help with applications made for robots.
Talk about programming a Robot both for custom tasks and pre-ordained ones. Briefly mention programming languages and Robot Operating System (ROS).
ROSes are based on different programming languages like C++, Python, and Lisp.
Where Are Robots Most Commonly Used?
Robots are most commonly used in industries where human effort was required to be lessened.
They are also used in hazardous conditions where regular human beings cannot go to.
Robots are also used in a customer service role in some parts of the world, but since most of the robots we have today aren’t the ones that we see in science fiction, these robots have been mostly relegated to industry.
They are also used in the healthcare industry to assist surgeons in the operating room, like the DaVinci surgical robot.
Contemporary Robot Manufacturers
Several well-known companies manufacture robots for industry, customer service, educational and military use.
Electrical engineering company ABB is a proven manufacturer of assembly-line robots and other automation equipment.
Yaskawa is another manufacturer that makes mostly industrial robots and is based in Japan.
Epson, Kawasaki, and Mitsubishi are other well-established players that make industrial robots.
In the case of consumer robots, the first name that comes to mind is iRobot with its robot vacuum cleaners.
Robots and the Future
AI and machine learning are shaping up to be the next frontier in scientific research and development and, when incorporated with robots, have loads of potential industrially and commercially.
The AI we have now are really smart, but getting them to the next level of autonomy is only a few years away.
Retraining a robot for a new skill or technology won’t take much time compared to a human, and they will be really good in sectors that always change their standards and technologies.
The funding from investors also needs to be here for robot technology to mature, and as robot adoption increases, the money will automatically start coming in.
Robots Can Change The World
The robot revolution that is poised to happen will affect almost every sector you could think of.
Reducing human effort has always been the focus of research and development, and despite what the movies say, people will be more than willing to let a robot do work for them.
They won’t cannibalize human jobs either since they still need to be supervised and maintained, and it isn’t really practical to let robots run entire assembly lines or factories.
Robots that have machine learning capabilities have the potential to automatically adjust themselves to new environments so they can potentially be used for other applications if they become less efficient at the job they were designed to do.
You May Also Enjoy Reading:
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- Can Robots Survive in Space?
- 7 Military Robots That Use Cutting Edge Technology
Frequently Asked Questions
What materials do you need to make a robot?
You would need steel or aluminum to build the structural and load-bearing parts of the robot.
You’ll also need PCBs and other computing hardware so that the robot can think.
How do you code robots?
You code robots in a computer programming language like C or C++, which a robot operating system runs and makes the robot execute the instructions given in the code.
How do you make a real robot that can talk and move?
You’ll need a speech processing program to analyze what you say and formulate a response.
You can use a speaker and microphone to communicate with the robot and arms and legs powered by servo motors to move.
Finally, you’ll need the robot’s brain, which can be any computer that lets it process speech and control its movement.